The Stella Prize - A New Way To Honour Women Who Write

By Sandra Todorov This edition of Women Who Write is dedicated to The Stella Prize, a new initiative designed to celebrate the work of Australian women writers. This is the first major literary prize for women’s writing in Australia and it will be awarded for the first time in April 2013!

With entries closing at 5.00pm on Thursday 15 November 2012, you can bet some nervous people are polishing up their entries and hoping for the best.

According to the website: “[The Stella Prize] will raise the profile of women’s writing, and will reward one writer with a $50,000 prize. The shortlisted and winning books will be widely publicised and marketed in order to bring readers to the work of Australian women writers. In short, the Stella Prize will celebrate and recognise Australian women’s writing, encourage a future generation of women writers, and significantly increase the readership for books by women.”

The prize came into being after a group of women in the publishing industry noted that women were being neglected in shortlists for the prestigious Miles Franklin Award. After no woman was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin for two years within a three year stretch, the women decided enough was enough. Education philanthropist Ellen Koshland provided much of the initial funding for the Stella Prize, with two female restaurateurs (Patricia O'Donnell and Michelle Garnaut) among the other major donors.

''There was always going to be men on the panel - but not a majority - because we want men to read women's books'' says Stella Prize chairwoman and Scribe Publications associate publisher Aviva Tuffield. ''It's very much about celebrating Australian women's literature and supporting books and writers in an industry that is struggling.”

The board member list reads like a who’s who of Australian publishing, with former Meanjin editor Sophie Cunningham, Wheeler Centre Associate Director Jenny Niven, feminist author Monica Dux (profiled in a previous edition of Women Who Write) and Sleepers Publishing editorial director Louise Swinn among the members.

Here's what some people of note have to say about the award:

The Stella Prize is an important evolution in the recognition and celebration of women writers in Australia. Ms “Miles” Franklin would be proud.

- Tara Moss

The Stella Prize recognizes that women are central to Australia's literary endeavour and gives encouragement to future generations of writers.

- Adam Bandt

I am living proof that a women-only prize can be career-changing.

- Kate Grenville

I, like make other Australian women writers, am waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the award next year! Anyone hoping to enter had better get a move on, as the deadline is less than two weeks away.

Sandra Todorov’s writing has appeared in The Seminal, The Lowy Institute ‘Interpreter’, Kill Your Darlings and Miranda Literary Magazine. She runs a consultancy from Melbourne CBD and her first novel will be out in 2013.